Texas: Hill Country

Texas: Hill Country
Few would deny that digging into the ground of the 28th state would yield anything less than red, white, and blue dirt, so rolling into this part of the country on anything other than a Harley can feel a little like going to a cross-stitch party without any needles. That is until you approach a town whose welcome sign says, “Willkommen.” You immediately know you are not in Kansas anymore . . . and perhaps not even in Texas!

Fredericksburg silences the sights and sounds of cowboys and country music, and it replaces them with oompah bands and gingerbread-style architecture. Suddenly, our Bavarian Motor Works machines perk up as if they are returning to the fatherland.

Things get even stranger, in a good way, as we travel through time to a 1940’s style hotel built to duplicate an airplane shelter. The Hangar Hotel is complete with parking for the flying machines and has big band music playing 24 hours a day. We ride back to East Main Street for a traditional “Abendessen” (dinner) of purple pickled cabbage, German potato salad, and Jaegerschnitzel at Der Lindenbaum restaurant.

A beautiful day, luscious blue basin, and me without my water wings; perhaps the dam is a better way to get to Mexico.

Many visitors come to Texas Hill Country in the spring when deep blue (almost purple) tulip-shaped Bluebell flowers drape the landscape like a blanket. Arriving in August, accompanied by 100 degree days, makes any type of blanket seem most impractical! The trade-off is minimal traffic, which makes the terrain of Texas Hill Country much more enjoyable ... as we are about to find out.

Ain’t Nobody Feelin’ no Pain

Coffee and homemade blueberry scones, compliments of the hotel, are enough to get us started on our day. We depart early to the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site where American Bison, Texas Long Horns, and white-tailed deer are abundant. We arrive at the working ranch before the farmers (around 8 a.m.), which is a tip off that it is only a replica. After admiring the animals and the construction of the old barns, we take off. As we pass through Grapetown and several wineries, we learn that this area of Texas is well known for its varietals.

Motorcycle & Gear

2007 BMW R 1200 GS ADV

Communication System: Sena SMH10
Helmet: Open Face Nolan N43E N-Com
Pants: Joe Rocket Pants Phoenix 2.0
Jacket: Hein Gericke Timbuktu Air Jacket
Boots: Sidi Canyon GORE-TEX

However, a wine excursion on two wheels is not my idea of a good time, and is best left to the many tour companies around Fredericksburg.

Down a ways, we turn onto Ranch Road 1376 and enjoy the light hills and soft curves that bring us to Luckenbach, TX. Once a struggling trading post, this tiny settlement is often credited with driving much of the modern tourist traffic that passes through Fredericksburg each year. In the 1970’s it was put up for sale in the local papers where ads read, “TOWN FOR SALE, dancehall and barbeque pit included.”

Eventually, it was saved by the self-appointed “Imagineer,” Hondo Crouch. He hosted “hug-ins,” where people gathered, listened to music, and hugged ... a lot! His motto that “everyone is somebody” convinced people to trek to this musical oasis in the hills. Waylon Jennings furthered its fame, early in his career, by performing with Willie Nelson there on a porch wrapped around an old oak tree. Waylon’s tune Luckenbach, TX, returned the early favor and helped drive tourism here. Today, guests are encouraged to grab a guitar and strum up on the porch should the moment strike them.

A front porch and a "geetar" are all I need to be strumming among the Texas trees.

After visiting with the entire population of three (along with some friendly roosters, chickens, and cats), we are back on the road. Our destination today is the Mexican border town of Del Rio. On paper, this appears to be a short journey through Texas’ notoriously flat terrain. But, this is where Hill Country begins to earn its name. A brunch of Mexican scrambled eggs (huevos rancheros), and homemade tortillas at Lorenita’s Restaurant & Cantina in Boerne, TX, readies us to hit the hills.

At the intersection of Highway 16 and Highway 83 is a solemn reminder of fatalities and a warning to “take it easy.” We heed the advice, and our reward is safe navigation of the steep climbs and stunning drops.

The topography eventually flattens, and after we pass Laughlin Air Force Base, the police/border patrol presence is instantly made known by the increase in traffic. It is clear from the number of pulled-over vehicles that in Del Rio 30 miles an hour means 30 miles an hour. We take a leisurely drive over to the Amistad Dam.